The B2B Experience Gap: why EX is the new CX, and how to fix “the jalopy of the industry”

The B2B Experience Gap: why EX is the new CX, and how to fix “the jalopy of the industry”
It was a B2B customer experience reunion as we brought back panellists from Omnisperience, OCX Cognition and Lumen Technologies for a webinar on how telcos can engage their customers and build more business. Check out the panellists’ key takeaways below, and then watch the full replay.

For any telco operating in the digital age, customer experience (CX) is as vital an area for transformation as its services and infrastructure. What lessons can telcos carry over from B2C into the B2B market?

We recently reconvened the panellists from the Delivering a digital experience for the customer of the future discussion at last year’s Total Telecom Congress to hear what they’ve got to say about the B2B experience gap in 2022.

Teresa Cottam, Chief Analyst at Omnisperience, put the challenge of how to best utilise emerging digital technologies to reimagine and revolutionise their B2B customer experience to the reunited panel, comprised of Richard Doughty, Cerillion’s Business Development Director, Richard Owen, founder of OCX Cognition (who also helped establish the Net Promoter Score), and Vish Patel, Director of Customer Experience EMEA at Lumen Technologies.

Is EX the new CX?

Teresa highlighted that in B2B, it’s not robots buying things, but people, whose expectations of customer service in a business environment are increasingly informed by their own expectations as a consumer – employee experience (EX) is now crucial.

When it comes to B2B buying, there have been several seismic changes over the last few years; according to stats cited by Teresa, three in four buyers are now millennials, and they expect a more instantaneous digital experience. In a much more volatile marketplace, they don’t want to be locked into long-term contracts, and those who do choose to stick around expect new products and services much more frequently.

B2B is no longer just about large businesses either – from single-person enterprises and side-hustles to global enterprises, all manner of buyers means that segmentation as it currently stands might be getting in the way of addressing customers’ needs.

All customers are becoming B2B, as expectations from the B2C sphere are increasingly creeping in. Customers want a more digital experience to save them time and money, while ensuring that their employees are satisfied.

From Cerillion’s side, Richard Doughty argued that focusing on B2B customer experience isn’t about altruism, but about driving business, increasing loyalty and reducing churn. Improved customer service can be a beneficial by-product of delivery improvements in other areas, such as automation and mobile apps.

As Vish pointed out, the dynamics and demands on any business in the technology space can change every six months, as the COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated. Great customer experience doesn’t just deliver benefits externally, but internally too, synergising the business and improving EX too.

Richard Owen argued that the real risk of digital transformation is the turning circle of change taking a long time – with major projects taking an average of 1-3 years for any impacts to become apparent, those companies who fail in this undertaking won’t realise until it’s too late.

This creates a chance for innovators to enter the market and disrupt the status quo, despite all the signs being there, such as Apple’s inauspicious entry into the handset market when BlackBerry was the default enterprise mobile device. No-one at BlackBerry expected that Apple would come to threaten them, as the iPhone was considered a consumer product.

Things “could have been better”

The only opportunity to refresh all that is in a critical digital transformation project, with only 12-18 months, from conception to execution, to effect real significant change – tinkering around in the corners will not suffice.

When Vish joined Lumen two years ago as Director of Customer Experience, things “could have been better” to put it lightly, with a company NPS of -20 and a great deal of legacy tech from previous acquisitions standing in the way of real change.

He said that the other challenge was the people, and the culture clashes that would arise between departments. He started in the frontlines and worked his way backwards, winning over the hearts and minds of IT to shift the business in the right direction; the benefits were there to be seen just one year in, as demonstrated by Lumen’s improved NPS score, which has since risen to +26.7.

For Vish, the worst thing that any business can do is to ask for feedback and not do anything with it. Actually looking at feedback, doing something about it, and reaching back out to customers to tell them what’s going on in the business – a job for marketing – means a lot to them.

Why does it take telcos a long time to reach this point? Richard Owen argues it starts with management buy-in to the idea, but there remains a resistance to change in many companies that can lead to “rationalisations that essentially defend an industry structure that is no longer current.”

The jalopy of the industry

Richard Owen also described how feedback surveys have become the “jalopy of the industry” – they have exhausted their usefulness, but the industry is struggling to move on. Richard Doughty added that, with the survey approach, businesses are answering feedback of a minority of customers, and only acting and making decisions based on “vocal, angry ones” and not the “silent majority.” With aggregate survey data tending to be 6-9 months old, surveys are not the most effective tool for acting on feedback – there must be another way to reach out to customers.

How do we get current data? Through digital tools, such as mobile apps and digital assistants, which collect data in much less intrusive ways. Having multiple touchpoints in place incentivises users to interact, tracking what customers like; this approach can risk creating a deluge of data for your business to drown in, but measurables go up immensely.

However, is it practical for large providers, such as Lumen? As Teresa put it to Vish, “Is this Star Wars?” Lumen has shifted, combining survey results with operational and employee data. For lots of businesses, too many KPIs are “virtually self-dealing from the company” – they’re simply things that they want to focus on because they can do them, or think they’re good at, and then they’re surprised that this has no impact. By creating a customer health score using automation, businesses can ensure their metrics remain outcome focused.

Without hesitation, repetition, or deviation…

To close off the discussion, Teresa asked our panellists to deliver a Just a Minute-style summary on the best advice to fix customer experience: Vish said the easiest way is to steal ideas from competitors or outside of the industry, to invest in digital tech, and to fail fast – a bold strategy, but one with a massive chance for success.

Richard Owen stressed high-quality data assets, getting away from surveys and into digital data ecosystems – track customers, process information, draw conclusions, build dashboards and build KPIs so employees can make better decisions and collaborate with multiple functions, all working from a common view of the customer.

And finally, Richard Doughty said automation has to be the single biggest way, using self-service through mobile apps and digital assistants to reduce churn and open businesses up to new markets. With these measures in place, 80% of end-to-end customer processes could – and should – be handled automatically, with no human intervention.

See how our panellists performed under pressure in the full webinar below:
Perhaps the three could fall back on a career as radio panel show contestants on the off-chance that the complete customer experience is fully automated.

If our panellists have convinced you to invest in and improve your B2B experience, get in touch. And if you’d like to discuss in-person with one of our consultants at MWC Barcelona 2022, then book an appointment now.